Even though NE 23rd Street is one of the most historical streets in Oklahoma City, many locals tend to forget that it’s also home to some of the most grassroots and homegrown eateries in town, the best having a specific focus on soul food, barbecue and old-fashioned Southern cooking. NE 23rd Street restaurants are OKC’s culinary history all in a few blocks and really should be revered as such.
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What works: The standard dog combinations are inventive and delicious.
What needs work: A few of the specialty dogs are so loaded with toppings you can't really taste the meat that makes them special.
The tip: Not in the mood for a dog? You can get any dog toppings on a burger.
Few meals hearken back to a simpler time than the hot dog.
Biting into a frank is an instant portal to watching minor league baseball or running around the backyard. It’s summer, encased in a sausage, covered in ketchup and mustard.
And while it’s not hard to make your own hot dogs at home, it is hard to make hot dogs for everyone else. I like mine done just to the point where the skin starts to crackle and burst. Some want them blackened. Others want them barely warmed, with a couple of char-marks. (For future reference, those people are wrong.)
Beyond that, you’ve got to account for toppings, and once you get past the basics, it’s hard to justify whipping up a mountain of fried onions and jalapeños when you’re the only one who will partake.
Which is what makes Mutts Amazing Hot Dogs so amazing. Its staff is willing, out of the goodness of their hearts, to exchange fully cooked hot dogs for money.
(It’s one-way only, however. Do not try and take your own hot dogs in there seeking payment.)
Where better to start than the Best in Show ($3)? It’s your basic hot dog, in either beef, chicken ($1 extra) or falafel. And then they let you dress it up with a bunch of different stuff. I recommend the Bloody Mary ketchup, neon green relish and yellow mustard. Why? Because the classic hot dog is classic for a reason.
Now, if you want to get all fancy-dancy, lah-dee-dah about it, you can get a few of the more exotic combinations. The Dyn-o-Mite ($4) is an all-beef dog, fried, then covered in mustard relish. It’s pretty great.
The Boardwalk ($4.50) is a chili dog, with all that it entails. The chili has a little cinnamon kick to it — at least that’s how it tastes to me — so be prepared.
But the real draw is the Pitbull ($4.50), a dog covered in four kinds of peppers, spicy cheese, onions and cilantro-lime aioli. This brings a lot to the table: noise, funk, boys to the yard. Most importantly, it’s got a real nice heat.
And for those of you who like a nice Philly cheese steak, The Philly ($4) is a nice substitute. Rather than steak, you get a hot dog. But everything else — peppers, onions, queso — is perfect.
On the other side of the menu are the special breeds, which include different types of sausages. In some cases, the toppings overtake the flavor of the sausage, but I’ve found a few that achieve a terrific balance.
The Big Easy ($7) has all the taste of New Orleans without the risk of seeing 64-year-old boobs. Andouille sausage is topped with crawfish, Creole mustard, fried okra and corn relish. If I’m being honest, I usually brush the okra and relish off to eat separately. It’s a bit much to get in one bite.
The Pond Dog ($9) is a duck sausage with Brie, apples and onions, all cooked down in a balsamic reduction. This here is gourmet eating. If you’re wary of duck, I have a simple solution: Stop being stupid and eat duck. It’s the best.
Those comfortable in their manhood can take on the Thunderbolt ($5), a foot-long corn dog. The rest of us can nibble on a basket of bite-sized corn dogs called “pups” ($6).
The fried pickle spears aren’t my thing, but your mileage may vary. I was too busy digging into a basket of duck-fat french fries ($5, plus .75 if you add truffle oil). The quality of the fries has only improved over time. It’s basically a city ordinance that you get them now.
You can get a grilled cheese special on Monday, tasty TV dinners on Tuesday, which runs from 5 to 9 p.m., and burgers every day with any toppings that come on the dogs.
And they accept all kinds. Hipsters.
Businessmen and women. Fat food reviewers from Oklahoma Gazette who publicly worship Greek gods.
So go in. It’s practically summer, guys. It’s hot-dog time.